I am not against public schools. Our kids attend public schools. However, I am concerned that the country feels the problem with schools can be fixed by simple standardizing the testing, and therefore, standardizing the curriculum. Maybe, the problem with school is the system is not educating students. Allow me to explain.
Alex is 10 years old and attends 5th grade at Griswold Middle School. We are very pleased with the Griswold system compared to some we have been in previously. I sat down with Alex to analyze his schedule and figure out how much time he actually spends learning at school (I’m not saying Alex was 100% accurate in the relaying of the time usage, but you will understand the point). Alex gets on the bus around 6:30. Class starts at 7:30, but teaching doesn’t begin until 8. The first half hour is to help with homework from the previous night – Alex reads at his desk. Throughout the day, he spends time in Language Arts, Math, Science, History, etc, but not every subject is covered every day due to the rotational nature of the schedule at the school. He also has lunch, band, PE, art (or other rotating “specials”) and recess. School is over just after 2 and Alex gets home at 3. So, for 8.5 hours of time invested every day, how much education is involved? When we talked through the details of the day, I added up the time Alex is actually sitting in a desk for a standard class. Then I applied a 75% effectiveness to the time (which basically assumes 75% of the time in a desk is spent learning – maybe generous, but I knew it wasn’t 100%). I found out one of his class periods is actually divided by the lunch/recess time. So he spends about 8 minutes before lunch and then another 24 minutes after lunch on a subject. 32 minutes split in 2 sessions. Looks good on paper when you add up the time spent on the subject, but I question the value of the time for teaching a group of 5th graders. Bottom line, less than 3 hours a day. Less than 3 hours of learning for an 8.5 hour investment.
There will be snow today, so the schools are closing early. Alex still got on the bus around 6:30. Class starts at 7:30, but teaching doesn’t begin until 8. School will be out at 11 and Alex will get home around 12. So, today, it is a 5.5 hour investment but he will only get about 1.5 hours of legitimate class time.
I’m not saying things like band, PE, and art are not important, but if you want to understand why kids in the US are falling behind, it is because the country continues to dilute the value of the time spent at school. It is a widely known scam that half days used for teacher development and such are preferred because they still count towards the mandatory 180 day total required to complete the year. Again, looks good on paper, but not really effective for teaching (in my opinion). What if schools were about education instead of common core or legislative number of days?